Skip to content
left end
left end
right end


A significant part of the cleft nurse specialist's role is to support you in establishing a feeding regime that gives your baby what he or she needs and works well for you as a family.

Usually, breast or bottle-feeding takes place by the lips surrounding the nipple or teat. The baby's tongue cups around the breast tissue or teat. Baby's tongue movement and the ability to close off the nose from the mouth (by lifting the soft palate) causes negative pressure to build up in the baby's mouth. This is how babies suck and obtain the milk they need.

Babies with only a cleft lip may not have difficulties feeding, but some may find making a seal around the nipple or teat difficult, particularly when the gum (alveolus) is also affected by the cleft. Specialist equipment may be needed but it may be possible for baby to feed from a standard bottle and teat or directly breastfeed.

Babies with a cleft palate usually have difficulty getting the negative pressure needed for suction to occur because the cleft causes an air leak. Therefore they usually require some assistance to feed effectively, via specialist bottles. If you wish to breastfeed, we are usually able to provide you with a breastpump on loan so that you can express your milk and feed via the specialist bottles.

Further information regarding breastfeeding can be found on the NHS Start4Life website and the NHS breastfeeding first days webpages.

Further information regarding feeding your baby with a cleft can be found on the CLAPA site. 

The specialist cleft nurses on the team will provide you with advice, support and equipment you need to help you feed your baby.

Another important part of our role is to support you with adjusting to the diagnosis you have received about your baby. As well as providing information, we will meet with you after referral to our team. For an antenatal diagnosis of cleft lip, we feel these face-to-face appointments are helpful to discuss the information provided and also for you to review photos of babies who have had cleft lip repairs with our team. This can help you to feel prepared for your baby's arrival and answer any questions you may have. Feeling prepared and supported in planning for baby's potential needs related to the cleft can help to reduce any anxiety you may be feeling.

If your baby has been born with a cleft palate, you won't have had time to prepare during your pregnancy as this isn't detected at your scans. This can leave you feeling shocked and also saddened, particularly if you need to adjust your original feeding plans. We will support you with these feelings and provide practical help with feeding. We can also put you in contact with additional sources of support such as our Psychology team or other parents/CLAPA. We regularly run Coffee Mornings across the South West region to enable you to meet other families in a relaxed, informal environment and all new baby referrals to our team will be invited to attend.

You can contact a cleft CNS via the SW Cleft Service main number 0117 3421177 or via our team email